Thursday, July 05, 2007

Explaining Social Networks like Facebook, LinkedIn

Facebook?  LinkedIn? MySpace?  What's all the hoopla about?  Trying to explain the power of social networks is a bit of a challenge.  I'm becoming convinced that they will become the way missionaries will communicate to supporters 5 years from now.

But how to you explain it to your supporters...or your colleagues...or your wife (her eyes glaze over whenever I mention social networking). 

Lee Lefever really explains things well.  Last month I posted his video explaining the power of a Wiki.  This week Lee posted another of his videos explaining social networks.

I wish he would have gone a little further, but this is a good start.  If you read this blog I'd like to connect with you!  Please feel free to "friend" me on Facebook or add me as a contact on LinkedIn.

via Beth


Andrew said...

I would love to network...but I am having a hard time finding you on Facebook--and Linkedin appears to be broken for the time being.

Andrew said...

Also, I find your prediction of most missionary communication being done via social networking sites in five years to be quite interesting. We just got a communique from our mission board urging us to avoid any kind of social networking site.

Of course, here in Brazil EVERYBODY has an Orkut account...

SEZ said...

I tried to find you on LinkedIn but it said since we don't know anyone in common we can't be friends (*tear*). I'm at if you have better luck from your end.

Love the blog.
God bless,

Jeff said...

Andrew: I just 'friended' you on facebook. Our mission hasn't come out with a statement on social networking...yet.

Imagine the power of connection that could be experienced as supporters join with you in near real-time through text-based solutions like Twitter/Jaiku/Pownce or video (kytetv, or mashups like Facebook. The future is in "presence," whether that happens through a textual medium or through video. Let's all figure it out together, eh?

Scott: I just sent you a LinkedIn invitation.

Thanks guys for connecting!

dpeach said...

I just posted at my blog about Facebook last night. Funny.

My mission board has not set a policy about it. I can see where I might not want to really promote a social networking site as a missionary. I don't know what circles you guys run in, but unfortunately, it is sometimes best that your supporters don't know who your other supporters are. I hate the politics of it all.

I highly promote my ministry website to my churches and keep them up to date with ministry information. But, I don't promote my blog. From my blog you can get to my ministry site (if you dig enough) but there is nothing on my ministry site that points to my blog. If my blog were ministry related maybe I would. But, my blog is just stuff. Almost never to do with ministry. Mostly has to do with surviving (and my running addiction).

Jeff said...

David, thanks for your comment and your thoughts. Can you explain what you wouldn't want to promote a social networking site as a missionary? I'm trying to get my head around it. I see a lot of upsides and relatively few downsides. Tell us what you're thinking. My organization is fairly politic-free when it comes to support so I'm don't see that angle.

If you guys are still tuned in let's talk about the upsides and downsides of all of this.

dpeach said...

As an independent Baptist sometimes my supporters are too independent. Though not entirely necessary, I keep my supporters list out of public view. I have heard stories of churches dropping support because a missionary was supported by a certain other church. You never know what political background 2 churches have. Therefore, unless pressed, I don't tell a pastor where I have come from or where I am going, especially if it is another church in the area.

One time the first question a pastor asked me (after I told him where I was going to be working) was whether I would be working with a certain missionary in the area. When I answered that we would not be working with him, the pastor said that he could support us then.

These weak (petty) reasons for support or non support are why I would be hesitant to really use social networking in my ministry. I do, however, have a regularly updated website with a mailing list. So I have regular contact with my people, but they do not see who each other is.

Jeff said...

David, thanks for sharing your experience with us. I understand your context a little better now, and its implications for social networking. Those are dynamics we need to keep in mind.

Carleb said...

I just thought of Facebook and MySpace (hadn't heard about LinkedIn) as ways of getting in touch with old friends and from there ask if they wanted my newsletter, and possibly from that ask if they want to pray about supporting my ministry.
I don't see the need for fear of politics, if it is just about interest in a ministry and not about money, but I might be naive.
I think it is important to send newsletters, or at leas email updates to many more than the ones that support you, and then more personal thank you's to those who support you in prayer and finances. It is good to tell of the Lords wondrous deeds to many people!
Lisa_in_Sweden (my MySpace)

Jeff said...

Carleb, I think social-networking does just what you've said. They provide a place for friends to connect, especially for those who are geographically distant.

Like everyone else, I send out newsletters or emails regularly. I send that list to about 230 people every couple of weeks. But wouldn't it be awesome if there was a way to provide the kind of rich content (maps, video, audio) to those people, rather than just text and pictures.

I experimented with doing video updates (2 min weekly updates) last spring and was surprised at how many positive comments I got about those.

Some platforms, like Facebook, at ready made to do this kind of thing . They only lack one thing, the kind of granularity necessary to identify groups of friends. That, and greater adoption by regular everyday people.

Some organizations, do struggle with the political side of support. David reminded me of others I've known in similar circumstances. I'm so thankful that dynamic doesn't figure prominently into my own support structure!

dpeach said...

One thing that I would definitely say is that social networking sites like Facebook can bring you into contact with people you would otherwise not have had contact with.

I have a podcast that I have not really promoted among my supporters (not yet). I have just marketed it through normal means and have been pleased with the diversity of people who now know about our ministry. I feel like I have a whole different support group through the podcast.

Networks, like Facebook, can bring me a set of prayer partners that may be distinct from my financial supporters. And that is a good thing. The more people you have praying for you the less you need to be concerned about the finances. I think networks can be complementary to your normal communication, or, in my case, be used in addition to the more traditional means.

oscar said...

Just came across this blog ... hope I can join in as it's right up my street.

Picking up on the issue of making supporter lists public ... I'm thinking on the cautious side too. One issue perhaps not explored is that of, dare I say it, 'poaching'! Whilst we can be too posessive about our supporters, we all understand that people can only support a limited number of people and causes. Others who have a similar ministry might see our supporters as 'fair game' and I can see them receiving lots of requests for funding because they appear on our list.

I do think that social networking has huge potential for mission. I think most mission orgs with a 'traditional' internet presence (i.e. just an informing website) are failing to engage the post-modern generation ... as they're now switched on by Web 2.0. From a UK perspective, I'm looking into the whole idea of raising mission awareness through Web 2.0, as well as providing a support hub for existing mission workers.

Jeff said...

Mike (Oscar), great comment. Thanks for taking the time to drop by. You raise some interesting issues. The "poaching" question is one that is going to come up in some quarters. At the same time, the number of missionaries engaging in social networking or even a "traditional webiste" is probably pretty low.

I'm really interested in seeing where all this will go myself. The phenomenon is still pretty young and it will take a while to shake out.

Thanks for your comment!